State of the Arts 2012
Arts Hub on the Rise

A secret first look at Art Square Studios: Inside Midtown's new creative hub


Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Cleburne Cafeteria
Courtesy of James Glassman
New DiverseWorks ArtSpace
Google Maps
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Art square studios Blair Gordon Design
Courtesy of Photo courtesy Blair Gordon Design
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks
Joel, Art Square Studios, August 2012
Photo by Joel Luks

"This is Midtown, we are in the middle of everything," our tour guide, who wished to remain anonymous, said during a secret look at Houston's newly renovated creative hub.

Perched along Fannin between Cleburne and Eagle Streets, Art Square Studios on Fannin is a two-story sprawling multi-use complex owned by Fannin VP LP.

Though 4110-4118 Fannin St. has been impeccably redeveloped, a run-down Sears across the street and a privately owned empty lot on the other side of Cleburne offer opportunities for future building.

Art Square Studios on Fannin was purchased in November. Shortly after, its transformation began. Pink, dark stone and rust brick exteriors were covered with clean white paint.

The 40,000 square-foot commercial structure was listed by DAC Realty Group for $2.2 million. At the time, the first floor was 93 percent occupied and the second floor, where creative activity is bubbling today, was completely vacant.

A look at the original building.

What it looked like before November 2011.

Some of the other tenants in the building stood by the renovation, like Midtown Walker's Original BBQ, H&R Block and Alberts Tailor and Alterations.

The management would like to find restaurants and wine bars to lease space on the first floor to complement the artists that work right above them, and contribute to the area's revival.

The developer's vision? A place where creative endeavours and socializing meet, with performances, art shows, wine and food.

Original art deco details kiss the foyer and the stairwell. The stairs' aluminum handrail and corrugated metal panels have been beautifully restored.

The two-color linoleum lining has a sense of timelessness —  as much in vogue now as it was when it was first installed.

Medallions spaced underneath the handrail are decorated with Gov. Ann Richards' memorabilia. 

A handful of old safes were lurking around.

Nineteen out of the 21 studios, which roughly occupy 8,200 square feet of space, have been rented to artists like Edi Martin and Elisabeth Smith. 

From 200 to 1,500 square feet with rents ranging from $350 to $1,800 a month, the 21 second-floor studios boast their original hardwood floors refinished to a dark ebony stain, which offer a stark contrast against the white, imperfectly-textured walls and fire red doors and lighting fixtures.

 

The possibilities are endless. Blair Gordon Design, one of the first tenants at Art Square Studios on Fannin, warmed the space by layering hand-blown glass pendants, mid-century office chairs, simple, geometric desks on wheels and floating diffusers anchored by a natural fiber rug. 

The neutral color palette is accentuated by a dark feature wall that cools off the bright white light entering from the large windows.

A 3,500 square foot apartment/work space will be made available in the coming months.

Rent? Somewhere in the ballpark of $3,700 per month.

On the other side of the building on Cleburne Street is the future home of DiverseWorks Artspace, at least for three years. The alternative art presenter has the option to extend its lease, though it hopes that the proposed Independent Arts Collaborative, set to be built at 3400 Main St., will have finished construction by then.